In a historic move, recently, the Odisha Assembly passed the Women’s Reservation Bill unanimously, thus giving women a 33% reservation in Legislative Assemblies. However, at the centre, the Women’s Reservation Bill or The Constitution (108th Amendment) proposed in 2008, passed by Rajya Sabha in 2010, but the Lok Sabha never voted on it and hence it lapsed after the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha in 2014.
If you feel that women are overreacting by demanding reservation in the Parliament, then perhaps you should know that currently of all 543 elected Members of Parliament only 62 are women. That is, barely 11.5%. While it is better than previous-elected assemblies, it doesn’t represent inclusion and diversity even remotely.
Women form some 48.2% of the total population of this country. Yet, our say in all matters of national interest that slide across the wooden desks of the Lower House is barely 12%. How does this not seem unfair to those who oppose women’s reservation?
End this hesitation in passing the bill
The bill has met resistance both inside and outside of the parliament with several men believing that reservation forces the electorate to elect leaders on basis of gender and not their capabilities. While capabilities and politicians are often not the words one uses in the same sentence in our country, this point cannot be discredited. Ideally, we should vote for candidates on basis of their capabilities, their potential to make our country a more progressive state. But in our current agenda-driven political and social climate, how many people cast their vote purely on basis of a candidate’s capabilities?
- Odisha Assembly has unanimously passed a resolution to give 33% reservation to women in Legislative Assemblies.
- At the centre, the Women’s Reservation Bill lapsed in 2014, after the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha.
- Despite being nearly half of India’s population, women’s representation in Lower House remains marginal.
- Indian voters often carry biased mindset to the polling booths and see female candidates as incompetent.
Also, we as citizens are prone to biased mentality. We carry these biases everywhere we go, even to the polling booths. Women, being considered the inferior gender are often at the receiving end of these biases. They are not encouraged to be politically sound, making them voters, who can be easily influenced by anyone from agenda driven leaders to family patriarchs.
Politics itself remains a field where very few female leaders have managed to leave their mark, because not many parents and peers support their girls when they want to enter politics.
Even when they do, most voters doubt their individual capabilities. They deem that their husbands control them, and that would make into puppet leaders. It is still hard for female politicians to convince voters of their capabilities than their male counterparts. They have to give in the added effort of breaking through the barrier of the biased mindset of the electorate.
Representation of women in Lok Sabha matters because it gives them a say in the functioning of this country. Female elected leaders understand the context of women’s problems better. They are versed in their struggles and thus are capable of looking at every agenda from the gaze of nearly half this country’s population, which is quite different from that of the other half. If gender isn’t equitably represented in due course the rest won’t fall into place.
If people have so much reservation against giving a quota to women, then they can surely stop it. All they have to do is to grant women an equal stature in our society.
Allow them a say in various matters and give them a chance to showcase their capabilities. Stop looking at them as the weaker gender, and begin voting for candidates singularly on the basis of their potential. When the voters will stop seeing their gender as a sign of incapability, when their opinions and stands would be accepted as relevant and significant, only then will the Women’s Reservation Bill be unnecessary. Until that day comes, we need it. So that women have a fighting chance to prove that they are able leaders and thus put an end to the gendered stigmas which voters carry to the polling booth.
Pic credit- iKNOW Politics
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.
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